Electronic Health Records from a Doctor’s Perspective

In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “What Your Doctor Isn’t Allowed to Tell You,” Dr. John Levinson, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, explained why “many doctors consider [electronic health records] a pain in the neck,” highlighting the issues with electronic health records (EHR) and the obstacles precluding the improvement of these systems.

One of the problems Dr. Levinson cites is the poor usability and nonintuitive interfaces of the EHRs and several studies have found an association between patient harm and these types of system related errors. For example, confusing displays and default settings for medications have led to patients receiving incorrect doses or the wrong medication altogether.  Moreover, to comply with the Hitech Act—the law that initiated the shift to electronic records—EHRs must be used “for the collection of very specific diagnosis and treatment data” which is “irrelevant to the care of individual patients.”

Although Dr. Levinson believes these challenges can be overcome, EHR vendors that have “overwhelming market power…insert gag clauses into their contract with hospitals” which has “prohibited the free exchange of information—including discussion of safety-related issues.” Consequently, doctors have not had the “same uncensored academic freedom with regard to EHRs” that they have to improve other imperfect medical interventions.

While the system-related errors discussed in the article pose a significant risk to patient harm, user errors by doctors and other health care professionals employing the EHRs also contribute to EHR-related harm. For more information about EHRs and their increasing association with medical malpractice, see our article and blog posts on these issues.

EHR errors continue to harm patients every day. The attorneys at Abramson, Brown & Dugan have vast experience handling medical malpractice claims in virtually every aspect of medicine. If you or someone you know is a victim of EHR related errors or other medical practice, please contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.

Elie Maalouf